Around two-thirds of divorces in the South West are being put on hold due to the tough financial climate, according to a new survey from accountants and business advisers Grant Thornton.
The firm’s annual matrimonial survey reveals that a lack of value or liquidity of assets has caused 67% of divorces to be delayed in the region – against a national average of 54%.
And the economic downturn means more couples in the South West are reaching a financial settlement with their partner rather than beginning divorce proceedings – 73% compared to 63% across the country.
However, the research found less evidence in this region of a growing trend elsewhere in the country – that of concealing assets.
In the wake of high profile cases such as Michelle and Scot Young, and following on from the landmark Imerman v Tchenguiz ruling, many lawyers questioned in the survey believed that in future more people will conceal assets during divorce proceedings. Nationally, 18% of matrimonial lawyers said they had not dealt with any cases of concealment, against a figure of 27% in the South West.
The South West is also seeing a higher proportion of cases using mediation, with only 7% of lawyers saying they had not undertaken a single case, compared to 23% nationally. Regionally, lawyers were against compulsory mediation but the feeling was not as strong as the national picture.
The latest national figures available from the Office for National Statistics show the divorce rate in 2009 at its lowest level since 1977, with 10.5 people getting divorced per 1,000 of those married. The divorce rate has been falling year on year since it reached a high in 2003.